A “constellation of catfish” photographed by a Kiwi snapper has won praise at an international photography competition.
The most amazing photos from the wet side of our blue planet have been revealed in the winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year awards 2023.
The top pictures were picked from a pool of over 6000 submissions. From sunken planes and dying humpback whales to tiny subsea crustaceans, the pictures snapped up awards across 13 categories.
There is plenty of mystery in the underwater world. However, the top underwater photo of the year is of one of the rarest animals on earth.
American Kat Zhou took home Photographer of the Year for her pink river dolphin in the Amazon River. These “boto” fresh water dolphins of the Amazon are so rare, they were thought to be mythical.
According to legend, at night the pink dolphins are said to transform into handsome men to seduce local women.
“Though I did not witness this elusive boto transformation, at dusk I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way,” said Zhou.
The photographer said that the dark river water was like “swimming in tea”, with little light for photography.
Judges were equally spellbound.
“At first glance simple, then simply perfect. In dark, tannic waters, Kat has created a striking composition capturing this rarely photographed and vulnerable species at the perfect moment,” said judge Alex Mustard.
With over 70 per cent of the planet’s surface covered by water, there was a rich selection of images and subjects.
The winning Marine Conservation Photographer of the year was a bittersweet award, for what he called “one of the saddest moments I’ve ever lived in the ocean”.
Alvaro Herrero showed a moribund humpback whale, whose tail was damaged by underwater debris.
Closer to home, New Zealander Shane Smith was overjoyed to be selected in the “Up & Coming” category for amateur photographers.
At first he thought it was a joke. Given the news on Valentine’s Day, he thought he was “being catfished”.
His huge shoal of eel catfish, taken whale swimming in Fiji’s Yasawa Group, was one of the top picks in the category. It was a cherished memory from a stay at the Octopus Resort.
He said he felt “very honoured for one of my photos to be featured in this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year competition”.
“I’ve only been shooting for a few years, so it’s a real thrill to be included alongside some real legends of the underwater photography world.”
Since the first Underwater Photographer of the Year award was presented to British photographer Phil Smith, in 1965, the competition has only grown. Today’s competition is a worldwide competition with specialist categories to test photographers in disciplines such as Macro, Wide Angle and Wreck Diving photography.
Here is a selection of our favourite snaps.